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CHRONICLES OF COVID, episode 2007…setting free

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 As the city is opening up, I’m closing down. The over three months of virtually being a prisoner in my apartment has hit hard. I’m in a tiny space, filled to the brim with the world’s most important items (WMII) that cannot, on any terms, be let go of. Darling my pooch and I have taken to walking backwards from each other, when one of us has to pass through the narrow ravine called ‘the open space.’ My ass, too has become huge from sitting on the one area that isn’t covered in WMII and though I do have to walk up four flights every time I go out, it isn’t enough to keep me in shape. Exercise in the apartment, you ask? Yes, I could possibly do a bit of isometrics on the john…no space required.

But none of this is is my Biggest complaint?  People are. Some of my neighbors to be exact. What happened to all those kumbaya moments that our species is supposed to share during national crisis? Just watch any number of British WW2 films and the spirit of Keep Calm and Carry On shared by the citizens is inspiring. But here in New York, the real estate moguls have destroyed community by making the rents only affordable to Millennials/GenY/Zoomers. (apologies, not sure what’s what) Other people raised with a sense of neighborliness are extant. The new folks are cool, indifferent and undefinable. Not once during these three months did any of the newer tenants ask if I needed something, though I brought up their packages and kept an eye on general door security.

 My friend S. has observed that their generation is so entitled, that they can’t even imagine that a natural disaster will strike them down. Mummy and Daddy will intervene, make a call and they’ll be ok and if you’re not family, who cares? When I argue that I’ve seen many younger people, and white at that, show up at demonstrations, she insists that it’s a social outlet and as soon as bars and restaurants open up, their protest signs will be exchanged for mojitos. . I don’t want to believe that, but the number of selfies being taken at Union Square was indeed troubling. Another friend insists its simply ageism. “They just hate us”, he says. They don’t even want to look at us.”

I had my own version of this phenomena when my Covid 19 -exiled neighbors returned for a week in order to move out of New York for good. They had been sheltering with their families in North Carolina and so I had 3 months of peace.  They were so fresh to city life when they moved in that a water bug crossing through their kitchen, sent them into hysterics. They blamed it on me and my dog. I insisted that I didn’t manufacture such creatures and that they were lucky they didn’t have the mice that visit me. Still, they hated the idea that I lived here before them and probably resented me for paying less rent for my unrenovated space. Playing old school mafia, they dropped their wounded bug upside down at my front door.

When they told me in no uncertain terms that they were going to use the roof (I live right under it) during their week back, I decided not to make a fuss…after all, I’d been meditating for months and they were going to move soon anyway. That they had already broken an Appalachian chair and never made amends was beside the point. They were moving and I was going to go high no matter how low they ventured. Even when I sat on the roof with a masked friend sharing a beer and they came up with blanket, take out and expensive wine, sitting rather too near, I didn’t say a word.

On their final Saturday night, they had a bunch of friends over and were carousing above my head, celebrating their departure. Again, I didn’t say a word. Then at 230 in the morning, they started up their washing machine. My tenement building should not have a washer/dryer unit…the infrastructure doesn’t warrant it. Still, the landlord is greedy and put one in. I had always politely asked the new tenants to use it during legal times as it shakes my entire apartment to the point of knocking books off the shelves. By putting the machine on at such a late hour, they were showing me how unimportant I am to them and how much residual sadism they are capable of. I did not call the police… too much going on in that department to bring them in. Instead, I took a hit of pot, put on two sound machines and slept until 7 am when they started up a second wash before finally moving out.

What is wrong with people? Why are we invisible to each other and what makes for so little respect? I’m in the midst of finishing up a documentary on Woodstock and how much the conviviality and magic of that experience stayed with me. Those were young people…I was young people… despite the adage not to trust anyone over 30…that’s not how it was… there was respect. Maybe because parents were engaged in keeping their kids out of Vietnam… maybe drugs were opening up generational psyches? Maybe money wasn’t yet the God it’s become? Historians may have the answers …I don’t …only the feeling that this generational gap and its behaviors really hurt.

I have already eaten at an opened restaurant on the street and it was fun to see the owners making money and people enjoying the new freedom. But something is still far from open, beyond hair salons and drive- ins and bars.  Something that will take more than legislation to crack. Something that’s a thousand times more important than any US business… something that’s easier to break than to mend…something that’s been closed for way too long now… the U.S. heart.

Written by nancykoan

June 29, 2020 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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